CHENNAI: Strongly condemning the death sentence awarded to five fishermen from Tamil Nadu by the Colombo High Court, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take urgent steps to set free the innocent fishermen who were denied a fair trial and became ‘victims of a hidden agenda’.
“Failure to take immediate decisive action in this case and secure justice for the five fishermen will greatly inflame the already bruised emotions among the people of Tamil Nadu,” the CM pointed out in his letter to the PM.
Stating that cases were foisted against the five fishermen - Emerson, Agastas, Wilson, Prasath and Langlet - in 2011 on charges of possessing narcotics, the CM observed that in earlier cases of alleged drug trafficking, where the court found the accused guilty, the only penalty levied was a fine.
The CM said that it was the paramount duty of the Centre to protect the life and liberty of five of its innocent citizens who were being deprived of their rights in an apparently unjust and unfair manner.
Requesting the Prime Minister to immediately take up the matter with the highest authorities in Lanka to ensure their release at the earliest, Panneerselvam urged the Prime Minister to direct the Indian High Commission in Lanka to set in motion the legal procedure for appeal within the statutory period in the appropriate appellate forum.
“Since the Government of Tamil Nadu will continue to meet the entire legal costs of this case, the Indian High Commission may be instructed not to spare any effort including, securing the best legal counsel, and support for the effective defence of these fishermen,” he added.
Panneerselvam also said the present case of five fishermen was under hearing in Jaffna when the Lankan police filed the chargesheet in Colombo court and transferred the case abruptly.
Thereafter, the trial was held in the Fourth Bench of the Colombo HC. “Given all these circumstances, the death sentence against these fishermen has greatly incensed not only the fishermen community in Tamil Nadu, but all sections of society,” he added.
Recalling the numerous letters written by former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa during the past 3 years regarding the case, the Chief Minister said that the Tamil Nadu government had sanctioned special assistance to pay for the legal fees for defending these fishermen. Further, special livelihood assistance was given to the families of these fishermen.